One of the innovations in Japan since the arrival of the foreigners is the railway. Among the presents carried to the country by Commodore Perry were a miniature locomotive and some cars, and several miles of railway track. The track was set up, and the new toy was regarded with much interest by the Japanese. For some years after the country was opened there was considerable opposition to the introduction of the new mode of travel, but by degrees all hostility vanished, and the government entered into contracts for the construction of a line from Yokohama to Tokyo. The distance is about seventeen miles, and the route follows the shore of the bay, where there are no engineering difficulties of consequence. In spite of the ease of construction and the low price of labor in Japan, the cost of the work was very great, and would have astonished a railway engineer in America. The work was done under English supervision and by English contractors, and from all accounts there is no reason to suppose that they lost anything by the operation.
Japanese Railway Passengers

Doctor Bronson and our young friends went from Yokohama to the capital by the railway, and found the ride a pleasant one of about an hour's duration. They found that the conductors, ticket sellers, brakemen, and all others with whom they came in contact were Japanese. For some time after the line was opened the management was in the hands of foreigners, but by degrees they were removed, and the Japanese took charge of the business, for which they had paid a liberal price. The new system of travel is quite popular with the people. Three kinds of carriages are run on most of the trains. The first class is patronized by the high officials and the foreigners who have plenty of money. The second by the middle-class natives, official and otherwise, and foreigners whose purses are not plethoric, and the third class by the peasantry, and thrifty people generally. Frank observed that there were few passengers in the first-class carriages, more in the second, and that the third class attracted a crowd, and was evidently popular. The Doctor told him that the railway had been well patronized since the day it was first opened, and that the facilities of steam locomotion have not been confined to the eastern end of the empire. The experiment on the shores of Yeddo Bay proved so satisfactory that a line has since been opened from Kobe to Osaka and Kyoto, in the West, a distance of a little more than fifty miles. The people take to it as kindly as did those of the East, and the third-class carriages are generally well filled.

At the station in Yokohama the boys found a newsstand, the same as they might find one in a station in America, but with the difference against them that they were unable to read the papers that were sold there. They bought some, however, to send home as curiosities, and found them very cheap. Newspapers existed in Japan before the foreigners went there, but since the advent of the latter the number of publications has increased, as the Japanese can hardly fail to observe the great influence on public opinion which is exercised by the daily press. They have introduced metal types after the foreign system, instead of printing from wooden blocks, as they formerly did, and, but for the difference in the character, one of their sheets might be taken for a paper printed in Europe or America. Some of the papers have large circulations, and the newsboys sell them in the streets, in the same way as the urchins of New York engage in the kindred business. There is this difference, however, that the Japanese newsboys are generally men, and as they walk along they read in a monotonous tone the news which the paper they are selling contains.
Japanese Plow

The train started promptly on the advertised time, and the boys found that there were half a dozen trains each way daily, some of them running through, like express trains in other countries, while others were slower, and halted at every station. The line ran through a succession of fields and villages, the former bearing evidence of careful cultivation, while the latter were thickly populated, and gave indications of a good deal of taste in their arrangement. Shade trees were numerous, and Frank readily accepted as correct the statement he had somewhere read, that a Japanese would rather move his house than cut down a tree in case the one interfered with the other. The rice harvest was nearly at hand, and the fields were thickly burdened with the waving rice plants. Men were working in the fields, and moving slowly to and fro, and everywhere there was an activity that did not betoken a lethargic people. The Doctor explained that if they had been there a month earlier, they would have witnessed the process of hoeing the rice plants to keep down the weeds, but that now the hoeing was over, and there was little to do beyond keeping the fields properly flooded with water, so that the ripening plants should have the necessary nourishment. He pointed out an irrigating-machine, which was in operation close to the railway, and the boys looked at it with much interest. A wheel was so fixed in a small trough that when it was turned the water was raised from a little pool, and flowed over the land it was desirable to irrigate. The turning process was performed by a man who stood above the wheel, and stepped from one float to another. The machinery was very simple, and had the merit of cheapness, as its cost could not have been large at the price of labor in Japan.

In another place a man was engaged in plowing. He had a basic-looking instrument with a blade like that of a large hatchet, a beam set at right angles, and a single handle which he grasped with both hands. It was propelled by a horse which required someone to lead him, but he did not seem to regard the labor of dragging the plow as anything serious, as he walked off very much as though nothing were behind him. Just beyond the plowman there was a man with a roller, engaged in covering some seed that had been put in for a late crop. He was using a common roller, which closely resembled the one we employ for smoothing our garden walks and beds, with the exception that it was rougher in construction, and did not appear as round as one naturally expects a roller to be.
Spreading Manure

Fred saw a man dipping something from a hole in the ground, and asked the Doctor what he was doing.

The Doctor explained that the hole was a cask set in the ground, and that it probably contained liquid manure. The Japanese use it for enriching their fields. They keep it in these holes, covered with a slight roof to prevent its evaporation as much as possible, and they spread it around where wanted by means of buckets. The great drawback to a walk in a Japanese field is the frequency of the manure deposits, as the odor arising from them is anything but agreeable. Particularly is this so in the early part of the season, when the young plants require a great deal of attention and nourishment. A nose at such times is an organ of great inconvenience.

The Doctor went on to explain that the Japanese farmers were very watchful of their crops, and that men were employed to scare away the birds, that sometimes dug up the seed after it was planted, and also ate the grain while it was ripening. The watchmen had pieces of board which they put on frames suspended in the air, and so arranged that they rattled in the wind, and performed a service similar to that of the scarecrow in America. In addition to this mode of making a noise, the watchmen had whistles and clappers, and sometimes they carried small bells which they rang as they walked about. It was the duty of a watchman to keep constantly on the alert, as the birds were full of mischief, and, from being rarely shot at, their boldness and impudence were quite astonishing to one freshly arrived from America, where the use of firearms is so general.
Storks, Drawn by a Native Artist

While Doctor Bronson was explaining about the birds, Fred suddenly gave an exclamation of delight.

"Look, look!" said he. "What are those beautiful white birds?"

"Oh, I know," answered Frank. "They are storks. I recognize them from the pictures I have seen on fans and screens. I'm sure they are storks."

The decision was appealed to Doctor Bronson, who decided that the birds in question were storks, and nothing else. There was no mistaking their beautiful figures. Whether standing in the fields or flying in the air, the stork is one of the handsomest birds known to the ornithologist.

"You see," said Doctor Bronson, "that the stork justifies the homage that is paid to him so far as a graceful figure is concerned, and the Japanese have shown an eye for beauty when they selected him for a prominent place in their pictures. You see him everywhere in Japanese art, in bronzes, on costly paintings, embroidered on silk, printed on fans, and on nearly every article of household use. He has a sacred character, and it would not be easy to find a Japanese who would willingly inflict an injury upon one of these birds."

There are probably no other artists in the world who can equal the Japanese in drawing the stork in all the ways and attitudes he assumes. These are almost countless, but, not satisfied with this, there are some of the native artists who are accused of representing him in attitudes he was never known to take. Admitting this to be the case, it cannot be disputed that the Japanese are masters of their profession in delineating this bird, and that one is never weary of looking at his portrait as they draw it. They have nearly equal skill in drawing other birds, and a few strokes of the brush or pencil will accomplish marvels in the way of pictorial representation. A flock of geese, some on the ground and others in flight, can be drawn in a few moments by a native designer, and the most exacting critic will not find anything wanting.
Forts of Shinagawa

The train sped onward, and in an hour from the time of leaving the station at Yokohama it was nearing Tokyo. It passed in full view of the forts of Shinagawa, which were made memorable during the days of Perry and Lord Elgin, as the foreign ships were not allowed to pass them, and there was at one time a prospect that they would open fire upon the intruders. Near one of the forts, a boat containing three fishermen was pulling slowly along, one man handling the oar, while the other two were lifting a net. Whether any fish were contained in it the boys did not ascertain, as the train would not stop long enough to permit an investigation. The fort rose from the water like a huge warehouse. It might resist a Chinese junk, or a whole fleet of the rude craft of the East, but could not hold out an hour against the artillery of the Western nations. In recent years the forts of Tokyo have been strengthened, but they are yet far from what an American or English admiral would hold in high respect. The Japanese have made commendable progress in army organization, but, so far as one can learn generally, they have not done much in the way of constructing and manning fortifications.

On their arrival in Tokyo, our young friends looked around to discover in what the city differed from Yokohama. They saw the same kind of people at the station that they had left in Yokohama, and heard pretty nearly the same sounds. Porters, and others who hoped to serve them and thereby earn something, gathered around, and they found in the open space in front of the station a liberal number of conveyances ready to take them wherever they wanted to go. There were carriages and jinrikshas from which they could choose, and it did not take them long to decide in favor of the jinriksha. It was a novelty to them, though not altogether so, as they had seen it in Yokohama, and had tried its qualities in their journey from the hotel to the station in the morning.

"What is the jinriksha?" the reader naturally asks.
A Jinriksha

Its name comes from three words, "jin," meaning man. "Riki," power, and "sha," carriage: altogether it amounts to "man-power-carriage." It is a little vehicle like an exaggerated baby-cart or diminutive one-horse chaise, and has comfortable seating capacity for only one person, though it will hold two if they are not too large. It was introduced into Japan in 1870, and is said to have been the invention of an American. At all events, the first of them came from San Francisco, but the Japanese soon set about making them, and now there are none imported. It is said that there are nearly a hundred thousand of them in use, and, judging by the abundance of them everywhere, it is easy to believe that the estimate is not too high. The streets are full of them, and, no matter where you go, you are rarely at a loss to find one. As their name indicates, they are carriages drawn by men. For a short distance, or where it is not required to keep up a high speed, one man is sufficient, but otherwise two, or even three, men are needed. They go at a good trot, except when ascending a hill or where the roads are bad. They easily make four and a half or five miles an hour, and in emergencies can do better than the last-named rate.

Frank and Fred were of opinion that the jinriksha would be a slow vehicle to travel in, but asked the Doctor for his experience of one in his previous visit to the country.

"On my first visit to Japan," replied Doctor Bronson, "this little carriage was not in use. We went around on foot or on horseback, or in norimons and cangos."
Japanese on Foot

"And what are norimons and cangos?"

"They are the vehicles in which the Japanese used to travel, and which are still much employed in various parts of the country. We shall see them before long, and then we shall have an excellent opportunity to know what they are. We shall probably be traveling in them in a few days, and I will then have your opinion concerning them.

"As to the jinriksha," he continued, "my experience with it in my last visit to Japan since its introduction gives me a high opinion of the Japanese power of endurance. A few days after my arrival, I had occasion to go a distance of about forty miles on the great road along the coast, from Yokohama to Odawara. I had three men to draw the carriage, and the journey was made in twelve hours, with three halts of fifteen minutes each. You could not have done better than this with a horse and carriage in place of the man-power vehicle. On another occasion I went from Osaka to Nara, a distance of thirty miles, between ten in the morning and five in the afternoon, and halted an hour for lunch at a Japanese inn on the road. Part of the way the road was through fields, where it was necessary to go slowly, and quite frequently the men were obliged to lift the vehicle over water-courses and gullies, and a good deal of time was lost by these detentions."
An Express Runner

Both the boys declared that the travel under such circumstances was excellent, and that it was fully up to what the average horse could accomplish in America.

"The next day," said the Doctor, "I went on from Nara to Kyoto, which was another thirty miles, in about the same time and with a similar halt for dinner. I had the same men as on the day before, and they raced along without the least sign of fatigue, although there was a pouring rain all day that made the roads very heavy. Frequently there were steep little hills to ascend where the road passed over the water-courses or canals. You will find, as you travel in Japan, that the canals are above the general level of the country, in order to afford the proper fall for irrigation. Where the road crosses one of these canals, there is a sharp rise on one side, and an equally sharp descent on the other. You can manage the descent, but the rise is difficult. In the present instance the rain had softened the road, and made the pulling very hard indeed, and, to add to the trouble, I had injured my foot and was unable to walk, so that I could not lighten the burden of the men by getting out of the carriage at the bad places.

"I was able on this journey, and partly in consequence of my lameness, to have an opportunity to see the great kindness of the Japanese to each other. I had my servant with me (a Japanese boy who spoke English), and he was in a jinriksha with two men to pull it, the same as mine. When we came to a bad spot in the road, the men with his carriage dropped it and came to the aid of mine, and as soon as they had brought it through its troubles, the whole four went back to bring up the other. I did not hear a single expression of anger during the whole day, but everything was done with the utmost good nature. In some other countries it is quite possible that the men with the lighter burden would adhere to the principle that everybody should look out for himself, and decline to assist unless paid extra for their trouble.
A Japanese Worker

"You will find, the more you know the Japanese people, that they cannot be excelled in their kindnesses to each other. They have great reverence and respect for their parents, and their affection for brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, and all relatives, is worthy of admiration. If you inquire into the circumstances of the laboring men, whose daily earnings are very small, and with whom life is a most earnest struggle, you will find that nearly every one of them is supporting somebody besides himself, and that many of their families are inconveniently large. Yet they accept all their burdens without complaint.

"But I will tell you a still more remarkable story of the endurance of these Japanese runners. While I was at Kyoto, an English clergyman came there with his wife, and after they had seen the city, they were very anxious to go to Nara. They had only a day to spare, as they were obliged to be at Kobe at a certain date to meet the steamer for Shanghai. They made arrangements to be taken to Nara and back in that time, a distance, going and coming, of sixty miles. They had three men to each jinriksha, and they kept the same men through the entire trip. They left the hotel at Kyoto at four o'clock in the morning, and were back again at half-past eight in the evening."

Frank thought that he should not enjoy the jinriksha, as he would be constantly thinking of the poor fellows who were pulling him, and of how much they were suffering on his account. He could not bear to see them tugging away and perspiring while he was reclining in a comfortable seat.

"I readily understand you," Doctor Bronson answered. "As I had the same feeling myself, and every American has it when he first comes to the country. He has a great deal of sympathy for the men, and I have known some strangers to refuse to ride in a jinriksha on that account. But if you will apply reason to the matter, you will soon get over the feeling. Remember that the man gets his living by pulling his carriage. And when you pay him for his services, you will win his gratitude if you add a fair gratuity."

When the Doctor had finished his eulogy upon the Japanese, the boys clapped their hands, and were evidently touched with his enthusiasm. From the little they had seen since their arrival in the country, they coincided with him in opinion, and were ready to endorse what he said. And if they had been in any doubt, they had only to refer to the great majority of foreigners who reside in Japan for the confirmation of what the Doctor had declared. Testimony in this matter is as nearly unanimous as it is generally possible to find it on any subject, and some of the foreign residents are ready to go much further in their laudations of the kindly spirit of the natives than did Doctor Bronson.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Conductor: A person who takes tickets on public transportation and also helps passengers.
Brakeman: A railroad employee responsible for a train's brakes.
First Class: Of, or relating to the most luxurious and expensive class of accommodation on a train, ship, hotel, etc.
Third Class: The cheapest accommodation on a train or ship.
Manure: Animal excrement, especially from cows, horses, sheep, pigs and chickens and when used as fertilizer.
Stork: A large wading bird with long legs and a long beak.
Ornithologist: A scientist who studies birds.
Jinriksha: A two-wheeled carriage pulled along by a person.
Eulogy: The act of praising or commending someone or something.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: The city of Yokohama, Japan.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of Japan on the map of the world.

Trace the path of the railway line:

  • Taken by the boys from Yokohama to Tokyo.
  • Running from Kobe to Osaka to Kyoto.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.